Work-Related Program Activities


Annys Shin in The Washington Post takes a look at the ways downturn-related anxiety hurt the still-employed:

In good times, workers frequently seized the opportunity to use “flex time” and family leave, to telecommute and to take paid sick days. But, according to workplace consultants, human resources specialists and employees themselves, those days are slipping away. More workers are giving up those arrangements, or resisting asking about them in the first place, out of fears that doing so will make them appear less committed to their work and therefore more expendable.

This reminds me of the larger issue of activities designed not to be work, but to appear to be work. Pretty much nobody with an office job, for example, takes in a weekday matinee once a week as I did when I was on a work-from-home schedule. But at the same time, pretty much everybody with an office job spends more than two hours a week basically slacking off rather than working. The key, however, is to slack off by doing things that look like work to the casual observer, rather than things (like going to a movie) that are clearly not work. This is why blog traffic drops dramatically during non-work days and non-work hours. Looking at a computer is more-or-less what an office worker is supposed to be doing, so looking at a blog for a bit can pass for working.

What’s happening, basically, is that people are using their leisure time in non-optimal ways in order to squeeze them into the basic “sitting at my desk, looking at a screen” format. One wonders how much lost welfare there is to this system relative to one in which people did as much work, but did it continuously, and just spent less time in the office and more time doing whatever.